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Holt: Canto Ostinato / Kees Wieringa, Polo De Haas

Release Date: 10/13/2009 
Label:  Etcetera Records   Catalog #: 1367   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Simeon ten Holt
Performer:  Kees WieringaPolo De Haas
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

TEN HOLT Canto Ostinato Kees Wieringa (pn); Polo de Haas (pn) ET’CETERA KTC 1367 (75:28)

Dutch composer Simeon Ten Holt has been writing music for over six decades. Studies with Honegger and Milhaud in the 1950s led him to polytonalities, and he later employed strict serial methods, eventually adding aleatoric elements to his music. All of this contributed to his masterpiece, the 1976-1979 Canto Ostinato , although its most obvious characteristic is a Read more minimalism closer to early Reich than to Andriessen. Written “for one or more keyboard instruments,” it has been played and recorded in many versions: there are CDs for two pianos; for four pianos, for harp, for organ, and for pairs of pianos and marimbas; among a dozen performances scheduled over the next few months are one for two organs and another for organ and two synthesizers. Much of this information has been gathered from the composer’s Web site www.simeontenholt.com, and from www.canto-ostinato.com. The latter offers pages of the score: written in conventional notation on from two to eight staves, it has a visual beauty which evokes the music, with long note-stems extending from one staff to another.

In a truly Reichian manner, Canto Ostinato begins simply and adds small additional elements at each step, rising slowly but inexorably to a complex grandeur. The music is continuous; 92 tracks suggest the changes taking place, but much goes on within each track, especially late in the game, when only the continuing ostinato retains the minimalist aura.

By track 36, a folk-like melody has crept in, taking over the music without interfering with its steady progression. Subtle additions in track 37 give the tune a more-classical character, even hinting at Chopin. By track 43 it is beginning to disintegrate, its rhythms lurching, and in 44 it threatens to die away but regroups triumphantly into a grand coda—which, of course, is no coda at all, merely another step forward. This is but a small suggestion as to what happens in this music. In the final analysis, Canto Ostinato suggests a slightly cooler version of Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated as well as Reich. I am not certain how much that coolness stems from Ten Holt’s music and how much from this 1996 performance. One can imagine this music played with more fire, but such an interpretation might become suffocating by the second hour. Even in this recording, however, the piece is a barn-burner: one cannot stop listening—turn off your telephones and Blackberries—until the music, in true minimalist fashion, just stops. Fascinating!

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Canto ostinato by Simeon ten Holt
Performer:  Kees Wieringa (Piano), Polo De Haas (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; Netherlands (Holland 

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